We spoke to the founders of architecture and urban design practice CHYBIK+KRISTOF
Can you pinpoint the thought that led you to a career in design?
Ondrej Chybík: My father is a teacher at the architecture university in Brno [Czech Republic]. While I was in high school I would visit him there often. It was interesting to see a school full of young, talented people working on models, renderings and plans of their designs. The overall atmosphere was attractive to me.
In terms of the design and architecture industry, what do you consider the most radical era or pivotal moment? Michal Krištof: A pivotal moment in the industry was the invention of the elevator, allowing verticality in architecture. Presently, we take this for granted, as before the elevator existed cities were only built on a five-storey system.
Which radical thinkers have been an inspiration to you in your career?
Both: Rem Koolhaas.
Krištof: Koolhaas is more than simply an architect, as he came from a non-traditional background. He holistically challenged architectural tradition. He asked questions that were not common in the practice, and with his theories pushed us to question the very basis of our education.
Chybík: I remember visiting the Kunsthal in Rotterdam during my studies and being deeply moved by the spacial organisation and use of materials.
Which radical thinkers inspire you the most now?
Chybík: Any platform that questions and offers an informed criticality of architecture, or the world at large. The radical thinkers of today are, for us, not particular people, but magazines or online media that support dialogue and pushes us out of our comfort zone. As practicing architects we are responsible for listening to criticism and to be confronted with issues larger than the narratives of our field.
A pivotal moment in the industry was the invention of the elevator, says Krištof
Who can architects and designers learn from outside the industry?
Chybík: We have collaborated with artists in a few of our projects. Following their progress is very stimulating. They have a similar understanding of society, but their sensitivities and approach can be much more conceptual. Their focus lies within understanding future societal developments.
Krištof: Indeed, artists’ radical thinking and raw ideas can be presented without any inhibitions. As architecture has a functional aspect, our designs must be approved and pass through many ‘filters’ where some aspects of our initial creativity may not make it to the completed project. Therefore, it is refreshing and inspiring to work with artists and try to realise their ideas in our buildings.
What will lead the way for more radical thinking in your field?
Krištof: I hope there will be a dramatical shift in the way we relate to our environment. I believe this will change the way we design and live. I see this as a necessary transition. Because I am a father I would like to see a shift in the environment to aid the future generation. Additionally, in economic crises where jobs are minimal, we will research and craft a theoretical base for a possible future economic boom.
Chybík: I have noticed the way we relate to private property has become an important topic. The current housing crisis in global major cities is alarming. I believe this will require us to rethink the way we design, but also to construct a new collaborative way of working together, with both city administrations and private stakeholders attempting to find a solution.
Could you recommend a book/article/blog that inspired your thinking?
Krištof: Volume Magazine.
Chybík: I draw inspiration from the projects and research published by schools like GSAPP, The London School of Architecture, or the Department of Architecture in ETH Zurich.
Could you name two buildings/pieces of furniture that you consider radical designs of their time, or perhaps still to this day?
Chybík: My example is not a piece of furniture or a building, but an industrial design item: the Porche 911. I believe that the evolutionary design of this vehicle, first appearing on the market in 1963, is treasured by many because it utilises functionality in such an efficient manner.
Krištof: The airplane is a great example of a timeless design, driven by its efficiency in interacting with the natural forces that make it function. I find these designs, ones working with the forces of nature, beautiful, and stand the test of time.
I think best with…
Krištof: Writing out my ideas and constantly taking notes.
I think best when…
Chybík: I take my morning shower.
Koolhaas designed the Kunsthal exhibition space in Rotterdam
The thought that keeps me awake during the night is...
The thought that gets me out of bed each day is...
Chybík: Curiosity! I enjoy having a diverse schedule and continuing to be surprised by what occurs during my work days.
Do you like to think with, or think against?
Krištof: I enjoy both. I like to think about the extreme of a presented idea as a starting point, to then challenge all aspects on the table.
Chybík: It depends on the stage of the project, but we are rather similar in this way. We both like to challenge the topics we are faced with and are always driven by a curiosity to find more.
If you weren’t a designer/architect, where do you think your way of thinking would have led you?
Chybík: Nowhere. I cannot imagine not being an architect.
Could you describe radical thinking in three words?
Krištof: Brave, curious and confident.
What’s the most radical thing you’ve come across today or this week?
Chybík: Our team managing to design and present a project in 24 hours with the client’s approval.
CHYBIK + KRISTOF is an architecture and urban design studio whose expertise lies in delicately balancing conceptual thinking and strategic approach. The architecture firm has offices in Prague, Brno and Bratislava and operates with 50 + multidisciplinary international team members. The firm’s past projects are closely aligned with dynamism and are heavily influenced by the architectural legacy of Central Europe.